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County Officials Scold Edison for Power Outage Response

At Tuesday's County Board of Supervisors meeting, county officials faulted Edison for poor communications, for not coordinating with local officials, and for not having a good enough plan in place to deal with extended power outages.

At its regular Tuesday meeting, the County Board of Supervisors summoned Southern California Edison officials to discuss public complaints about how they have responded to extended power outages resulting from last week's wind storm.

County Supervisor Michael Antonovich, who represents Altadena and other San Gabriel Valley cities, told Edison officials that "99 percent" of the phone calls his office has received about the storms have been to complain about Edison's response.

He faulted them for not coordinating with public officials, and for not coming up with a plan to go door to door to give customers information on how long their power would be out.  Veronica Gutierrez, the utility's vice president for local public affairs, told the Board the utility had done its best to distribute information through the local media, a response Antonovich took issue with.

"But the media only works if you have electricity, so that’s stupid," Antonovich told Gutierrez.

Antonovich suggested a better strategy would have been to use the Sheriff's Department and Edison officials to go door to door and inform people about outage time.  He also asked about how well the utility has drilled its employees on training for scenarios for widespread power outages, and asked about Edison's plans for an emergency.

He also pointed out that it took until Saturday for Edison to open its distribution centers for emergency supplies.

Gutierrez referred to the 419,000 power outages caused by the wind storm as "unprecedented."  She said that the utility has had trouble predicting when the outages will be over because field crews have responded to calls of a single fallen tree, and often found there to be multiple trees downed at the site.

She said the utility drills for these events and has brought in crews from as far as San Diego and Bakersfield, but that it has been difficult for them to even reach the areas where the poles are down because of all the tree debris on the streets. 

Antonovich, however, suggested that he did not see any reason why Edison crews would not have been able to reach areas with outages.

"We’re not talking about out in the wilderness, we’re talking about an urban area," Antonovich said.

Questioning from Board Supervisor Don Knabe revealed that the Edison officials were not familiar with the county's Coordinated Area Recovery Efforts (CARE) program, which the county uses in emergencies to put out public information and coordinate their response.

County CEO William Fujioka told the board his office would be preparing a report on the utility's response and presenting it later this month or in early January.

The board voted unanimously to send a letter to the California Public Utilities Commission, which regulates Edison and other utilities in the state, to request that they investigate the utility's response and develop a better plan for response in a future crisis.

The Board did not ask for updated totals on how many still lacked power, and Edison did not provide any additional information on when all customers would have their power restored.

Robby December 08, 2011 at 12:10 AM
I like Angela's ideas. I would register immediately to hook up with an elderly or disabled person within walking distance and be their personal pest. =) Even if I can't do anything much, maybe just keeping someone company when we're isolated like this could help. I'm always too busy to go to the ACONA meetings - it's so hard to get to ANYTHING after working all day - but maybe I'll just take my dinner to the meetings and start attending.
Peter Freeman December 08, 2011 at 12:41 AM
Edison could have gotten the word out a lot better. If not door to door, than post those portable electric signs, that you see on the freeways and streets. People want to know when they can expect power. SCE did not do their best. They had commercials running every hour, but the people had no power to turn on TV!!.... REALLY!! It was freezing cold this AM and I can only imagine the pain and suffering for the people with no heat!
Peter Freeman December 08, 2011 at 12:42 AM
32 degrees this AM!!
terry Morris December 08, 2011 at 12:59 AM
Thank you Angela! I just keep saying the same thing over and over We live in earthquake country. If we have the big earthquake everyone says is going to happen in the next 30 years, this wind storm is going to look like a cake walk. Go to the Red Cross website and print out their emergency list. Buy everything that you can. If you are strapped for cash, try craigslist or yard sales, the 99cent store. Build up as much as you can. Have some spare cash hidden that is easily accessible, at least enough to buy a couple of tanks of gas. Get some canned food at Food for Less. While you are there, pick up some gallon jugs of water. Put some first aid supplies together. Gather some spare clothing and old pair of shoes, throw that in there too. Get a hand crank radio. Battery operated lanterns are CHEAP. If you only have one, it is better than darkness. Make sure you can light your stove. Check local yard sales for an old camping stove, in case you can't use your kitchen stove. Look for a sleeping bag as well, maybe a pair of thermals. Talk to your neighbors, know who lives around you. the first thing we did when this storm hit, was to check in with our elderly neighbors to be sure they were okay and to see if they needed help. Do not be complacent, do not wait for a utility company or government agency to take care of you. They won't. Maybe the world would be a better place if they did, but they won't. Remember Katrina.
Ellen Zunino December 08, 2011 at 11:08 PM
I think we can all agree that when we castigate "Edison", we're not talking about the guys on the poles. It's the "suits" in the offices down in Rosemead who are supposed to oversee the operation of the company, the primary object of which is the transmission of those pesky little electrons into our homes and businesses. There were a lot of trees and debris to deal with but after wind events like last week's, there always are. Edison's initial damage assessments seem to have been flawed. Although I'd like to see Edison communicate more accurate information to those of us who were without power, it first has to gather more accurate information during its initial assessments and then improve communications between its people in the field and those in its offices.

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